When I think of robots, the image that comes to mind is still that of a clunky humanoid, unmanned aerial vehicles or the tracked, boxy models used by the army and bomb disposal units. While this remains true of certain designs, modern robots are becoming increasingly sophisticated in both application and design.
Festo’s new BionicOpter looks more like something from da Vinci’s dreams than the maid from the Jetsons. The new ultralight flying robot bears an uncanny resemblance to the dragonflies upon which its design was based. Only the size, with a 48 cm (18.9 in.) long body and a wingspan of 70 cm (27.6 in.), would distinguish it from its brethren buzzing over a pond.
The body of the BionicOpter is constructed from flexible polyamide and terpolymer, while the wings are a carbon-fiber frame with a thin foil covering. The entire unit weighs 175 grams (6.2 oz.) and contains a battery, nine servo motors, a high-performance ARM microcontroller, sensors and wireless modules. Operators control the new robot with a smartphone app making it easier to operate, in theory, than many remote controlled cars.
Just like a dragonfly, the BionicOpter has omnidirectional flight capability.
Up and down, forwards, backwards and to the side: the flapping wing design of the BionicOpter enables it to fly in all directions in space and hover in mid-air just like a helicopter. Unlike a helicopter, however, the dragonfly does not need to tilt forwards to generate forward thrust. This means that it can fly horizontally as well as float like a glider. –Festo
The BionicOpter was developed as part of Festo’s Bionic Learning Network, which takes inspiration from nature to develop new kinds of robots. While the presence of an app dedicated to steering the robot does indicate, in principal, the possibility of buying one, I couldn’t find anything resembling a price.
Below you’ll find a video that demonstrates the flight of the BionicOpter.